Under President Biden, Portland loses ‘anarchist jurisdiction’ designation

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
Feb. 25, 2021 12:33 a.m. Updated: Feb. 25, 2021 1:32 a.m.

The president revoked the label in an executive order issued Wednesday

President Joe Biden has decreed that the city of Portland will no longer be considered an “anarchist jurisdiction” in the eyes of the federal government.

The city had held onto the unusual designation since September after President Donald Trump announced a plan to limit funding to cities where the administration felt local governments were not cracking down intensely enough on criminal activity. To start, the Trump Administration named three cities all dominated by Democrats: Portland, Seattle and New York.


The announcement came as Trump was seeking re-election and stoking fear around the large-scale racial justice protests that had taken hold in many American cities.

In an executive order Wednesday, Biden revoked a host of actions taken by the former administration, including the memo in which the Department of Justice announced the creation of the “anarchist jurisdiction” designation.

The "Wall of Moms" links arms in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in Portland, Ore., July 20, 2020.

The "Wall of Moms" links arms in front of the Mark O. Hatfield federal courthouse in Portland, Ore., July 20, 2020.

Jonathan Levinson / OPB


As many Portlanders expressed remorse on social media that the city was losing its edgy-sounding label, public officials were likely feeling a wave of relief. While many legal scholars doubted the president had the power to pull the funds, the threat loomed large at a time when the pandemic was blowing big holes in local budgets.

“It’s great to have a partner in the federal government instead of an opponent,” wrote Jim Middaugh, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler’s communications director, in a statement. “It’s time to move forward with the federal government towards the recovery every Portlander wants and needs.”

In October, Portland had joined Seattle and New York in a lawsuit, alleging the president had singled out liberal-leaning cities and had no legal standing for pulling funding from American cities when he took issues with their approach to policing.

In a statement at the time of the lawsuit filing, the three mayors accused Trump of “playing cheap political games with Congressionally directed funds.”

The administration has reportedly been considering cutting $1.8 million in grant funding to assist health centers treating COVID-19 patients in the Portland region. Though, as Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury pointed out at the time, that threat wasn’t quite in line with the spirit of the memo, as the money was supposed to flow to the county, and not to the city.

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